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Canceled Favorites

I’ve been hearing for the last week or so about shows that are being canceled and those that are being renewed for next season, and I’m a little depressed. A bunch of shows that I decided to try (many of which I like) are being canceled.

Some of the cancellations are not surprising, like NYC 22. I’m also not that surprised that Breaking In and Bent are being canceled, although I really liked them. GCB was one of my guilty pleasures. I didn’t look forward to it every week, but when I had some extra time, I’d catch up. Some shows I won’t miss, even though I watched regularly. Unforgettable tops that list. I liked the premise of the show, but something about the main character bugs me. Maybe it’s the actress, but there have been too many times that she’s come across as an airhead. Awake is a show that I’ve watched, but I have a bunch of episodes on my DVR to catch up on. Now I’m questioning if I should bother.

There are three shows that are chopped that I will miss. Missing doesn’t surprise me. I mean, really, how long could you draw out a single kidnapping? But I watched it every week. The Finder is another show that’s a little on the weird side, but since it aired on Fridays, it gave me something to watch over the weekend. The one show that’s being canceled that I think I’ll miss the most is Alcatraz. I like everything about that show. It had unique characters with some baggage, small conflicts in the search for the weekly criminal, and the overall plot arc of how and why the 63s were in 2012.

Image taken from Amazon

I will say that I’m happy that my truly favorite shows have been renewed — Revenge, Castle, Blue Bloods, Mentalist, Criminal Minds, and Bones. I have all of the episodes of Scandal on the DVR but haven’t watched them yet. Since it too is being renewed, I think I’ll catch up. Body of Proof has also been renewed, and I’ve watched pretty regularly, but if I could trade this for Alcatraz, I would.

The list I used to double check things I heard on Twitter is here. With all of these cancellations, I certainly hope there are good shows in the works for next year, otherwise, how will I fill all of my free time?

What show are you sorry to see go?

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Anti-Hero in Revenge

image courtesy of abc.com

Last night, Revenge came back with a new episode (finally). It’s taken weeks off so everyone, including me has been anxiously waiting. I talked about my love for this show months ago, when it first aired. Before the break, the show managed to twist what we all thought we saw in the pilot episode. The pilot opened with a scene on the beach making us believe that Daniel, Emily’s fiancé, had been shot. Instead, he’s arrested for shooting the other crazy person on the show.

In that first post, I talked about how Emily appears to be a complete sociopath with no feelings, at least until we see her with her childhood friend Jack. Through all of the twists and turns on her quest for revenge, this has held true for Emily. At the time, I didn’t call her out as an anti-hero, but now I think she’s one of the finest examples on TV.

Emily is on a mission to get revenge against the Grayson family for ruining her father and taking everything from her as a child. In one fell swoop, she lost her only parent, her house, her dog, and her best friend. Then she’s trained to believe the lies about her father.

So while revenge itself is far from a noble concept, as viewers we’re immediately sympathetic toward Emily because of her past. In addition, the Graysons are such a lousy bunch of rich snobs, it’s kind of nice seeing them taken down a notch.

Emily is conniving and deceitful and will do whatever is necessary to achieve her goal. There are times that I cringe watching what she’s willing to do and the lies she’s willing to say to move her plan forward.

It’s never been clear whether she really has feelings for Daniel. I know she doesn’t view him as part of the problem. After all, it’s not his fault who his parents are. He is a means to an end, but I think some of that gets muddled for Emily.

In last night’s episode, she admits that she lost focus and let emotion get in the way. I’m not sure about the direction of that emotion. She loves Jack. But it wasn’t clear if that’s the emotion she was referring to, or if she’s talking about Daniel.

In all my talk about anti-heroes, I’ve learned a lot. You can read past posts here and here and some links to other people’s posts here.

While looking at the concept of the anti-hero, I’ve come up with some things I think are necessary for it to work.

The anti-hero has to be sympathetic, if not likable. She needs to have some redeeming qualities. She should believe her cause is noble, even if it feeds into something personal for her. And finally, I think that the anti-hero has to make the audience believe she can be redeemed or reformed. Even if it never actually happens, we need to believe in the possibility.

Emily fits all of these. We’re sympathetic because of her childhood, and her love for Jack shows that she’s not heartless. She believes that she’s doing some good by taking down the Graysons. They have a habit of ruining lives, and not just her father’s. They’re bad, bad people. Finally, and this was revealed last night… SPOILER ALERT

Emily admits that she would dump her plan and come clean if she had to in order to save Jack.

Now, Nolan puts the words out there and Emily lets him believe it, but I think deep down it’s true. She doesn’t officially admit it, which is disturbing. Maybe she’s playing the game letting Nolan think that.  Maybe she can’t admit it because emotion has already gotten her into trouble.

Either way, I’m looking forward to the rest of this season.

Do you watch Revenge? Who do you think Emily should end up with Jack or Daniel? Or no one?

Knowing the Inspiration

Today’s post will be short since I’m a bit swamped with still trying to revise a book and plan my son’s birthday party. I’m way behind on my TV watching, but plan to catch up this weekend. A ton of stuff has happened since last week, from the death of Whitney Houston to the Grammys and the little bit of TV I have caught has been pretty darn good. Did you catch Revenge last night? I didn’t see that coming.

In a brief moment of TV talk show time this morning, though, I was watching the hosts talk about Adele, who is a fabulous singer and who won a crapton of Grammys last weekend. Everyone wants to know who she wrote “Rolling in the Deep” about. This morning I heard she wrote about her ex-boyfriend, some guy named Slinky, who is a musician in England.

I giggled a little at his name, but other than that, I don’t much care. I’m not a tabloid reader and I don’t thrive on celebrity gossip. I never thought about her inspiration for the song, I just love her voice.

The hosts of the show then pointed out that any man who is dating a singer at this point must be forewarned not to do anything stupid, or he’ll end up in a song. It’s not just Adele doing it; Taylor Swift and Katy Perry both have as well.

Again, I don’t get into the personal lives of celebrities, but as a writer, I use what I see and know in my writing all the time. I’ve never based a character on someone I know, but I will use specific traits. However, I have heard of other authors creating characters of people they don’t like just so they can kill them off.

I don’t know that knowing the inspiration behind a song or story changes my enjoyment of it.

How about you? Do you like to know the inspiration or backstory for a song or book? As a writer have you ever included someone in your writing so you could exact revenge?

And for any of you who have somehow missed out, here’s Adele singing “Rolling in the Deep” (Sorry about the commercial):

Plot vs. Character

Obviously you need both character and plot for a story to be any good. It’s not that one is better than another. If there is more emphasis on one over the other, it’s simply a different kind of story. When I used to teach creative writing, I explained this to my students in the following way:

A plot-driven story is like an action film. When you see an action flick and you need to describe it, you might mention who the characters are, but you focus more on what happened. “There was a guy who had to rescue his wife and he did this and then the bad guys did this and then this blew up…” You get the point.

A character-driven story is more like a soap opera. It doesn’t matter so much what happens because we’re invested in the lives of the characters. When we describe a soap opera, we talk about the characters and what’s going on in their lives. When we’re invested in the characters, we can accept re-hashed plot lines (really, how many time can a terror plot with a bomb really land in Port Charles?) because we want to see how these characters will handle it.

It’s the same for TV shows. I’ve said lots of times already that it’s usually characters that draw me and and keep me watching a show. Even the cop shows that I watch, which by definition tend to be episodic (solve a new crime each week — plot), I keep watching because I love the characters. Shows that don’t get you involved in the characters’ lives run the risk of losing you. Honestly, I don’t know how the Law & Order franchise lasted so long. I watched for many seasons, but it got old. There are only so many ways you can rape, murder, or kidnap someone.

This season, though, there are actually 2 shows that are heavily plot-driven that I’m sucked into. One of them, Revenge, I talked about last month. In addition to being heavy on plot, this one also has a great cast of characters and I have a lot of sympathy for the main character.

A new show that has just started that I’m really digging is Alcatraz. For those of you unaware, Alcatraz is about finding the ’63s. In 1963, 302 inmates were supposedly transferred out of Alcatraz when the prison was closed. Now, these prisoners are showing up and committing new crimes. Here’s a trailer:

Each week, a new prisoner is being hunted by a super secret government organization, a regular cop, and a comic book author who is an expert in Alcatraz. We’re given some background into these characters, but not enough (at least not yet) for me to care about them. I don’t want to know what’s going on in their lives. I want to see them catch the bad guys.

I think what works for both of these shows is that beyond the episodic nature, there is an overall story arc that keeps going. Each week, Emily Thorne in Revenge targets a new person to ruin, but her end game is to bring down the Graysons. Each small bit of revenge has an impact on that family.

In Alcatraz, we want to know where these 302 men have been. We want to know who’s pulling the strings and releasing them to commit more crimes. We want to know why they’re not discombobulated by the world that is so different from 1963 and how they know about cell phones. We’re dying to figure out why some of the supposed good guys were actually working at Alzactraz in 1963 but they haven’t aged.

Although I am a self-professed character person, it’s the ongoing suspense that keeps me coming back for more with these shows.

I think the same holds true for series books. If there is an end game, an over-arching story, the books are more unputdownable. If it’s an ongoing series with the same characters but it’s just episodic I’m not going to stay as long. That’s not to say there isn’t a huge market for those books. Who wouldn’t want to be Janet Evanovich or Sue Grafton? But look at the difference between those and Harry Potter.

Are you a character or plot person? Have you tried out Alcatraz? If so, what do you think?

Revenge is…

Scary. I don’t know if you’ve been roped into this show, but I sure have. When I originally saw commercials for Revenge, I hadn’t planned to watch. I thought it was going to be a Mean Girls kind of show. I think that mostly came from the lead actress looking so young. For whatever reason, I tuned in for the first episode and I was hooked. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer:

The whole premise is that Amanda Clarke takes on a new identity (Emily Thorne) to exact revenge on all of the people who played a part in ruining her and her father’s lives. Amanda/Emily is such a complex character that she’s fascinating to watch. Most of the time, she’s so scheming that she appears to be nothing more than a sociopath. She’s completely cold and heartless.

But then…you see her with Jack, her childhood friend, and the dog she left with him years ago, and you see genuine love. The actress is phenomenal as you watch her compartmentalize those feelings to keep on track. For weeks, I kept wishing that Amanda would abandon her mission and find happiness with Jack. It was a possibility, and although I knew it wouldn’t happen, it didn’t stop me from hoping. I guess that’s the romantic in me.

Now, it’s too late. Too much has happened, and she can’t go back. It kind of makes me sad because I don’t see how this can end well for Amanda. She’ll get her revenge, but at what cost to her?

I can understand the concept of revenge. I’m sure there have been times in my life when I’ve gotten even with someone over some wrong. I don’t think I could go to the lengths Amanda goes to get revenge. Her plans are meticulous to knock off each person. No, she doesn’t kill anyone; she doesn’t have to. She ruins them, using their own faults to bring them down.

My husband is squarely in the eye-for-an-eye camp. If someone had done to him what was done to Amanda, I could totally see him spending the rest of his life making those people pay. I grew up in a dysfunctional, abusive household. I was an angry teen. By the time I was an adult, I learned I had to let it go. The anger and hate would just eat away at me and ruin more of my life. So although I carry that baggage with me and it has formed who I am, it doesn’t rule my life. Amanda’s rage rules hers.

How about you? Are you more likely to seek revenge or do you just move on?